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New iOS tools help Android developers -- and Google

Matt Hamblen | June 2, 2015
New discovery of iOS apps in Google Search gives Google more user data for ad sales, analysts say.

Google I/O 2014 Android characters

Google and Apple are two of the staunchest competitors in any industry, especially with regard to their Android and iOS operating systems for smartphones and tablets.

One reality of the last nine months is that Apple has gained a tight grip on the market for high-end, pricier smartphones, the only kinds of smartphones that Apple makes.

Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rocketed out of stores last fall and helped Apple grow its market share to almost 18% in the first quarter, its third consecutive quarter of growth, according to Gartner.

Meanwhile, Android phones, which are produced by many different manufacturers, made up 79% of the smartphone market in the first quarter, Gartner said, which would seemingly satisfy Google. But Google doesn't directly profit much from those smartphone sales, and instead depends heavily on its ability to offer Google Search capabilities, benefiting from the rich data it can capture from users through searches to sell to advertisers.

Google also has been on a mission to have Android apps, which are offered by many independent developers in the Google Play store, work across other platforms, such as iOS. At its annual Google I/O developers conference this week, the company announced important initiatives to expand its support for iOS and for the developers that build iOS apps.

One announcement was that CocoaPods, a management tool for iOS, will be the primary way for developers to obtain Google Software Development Kits (SDKs) for iOS. In a blog, Google said use of CocoaPods will simplify the process of importing software into Xcode, a programming language for building iOS apps. As a result, developers can more easily work cross-platform, analysts said.

Another, and potentially bigger, announcement was that Google has begun offering App Indexing to iOS apps, in addition to indexing from Android apps. Indexing is an industry term that means users can discover (or "surface") relevant content in a Google search. Now searchers will be able to open mobile app content both from Android and iOS apps. According to a blog, Google launched App Indexing with iOS for a small group of test partners.

Other announcements Google made include iOS support for its Cloud Messaging service and iOS app compatibility with the Google Cardboard SDK for Unity, a development platform for building games..

The steps Google took to please iOS developers were just a part of a number of I/O announcements. Some of the biggest news came from Google's announcement of Android M, the next upgrade to its mobile operating system, coming in the third quarter.

The indexing announcement of Google searches to include iOS apps could be a powerful tool for iOS developers and their customers, analysts and industry experts said.


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